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Ronald McDonald House looks to help more families on 35th anniversary

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – October marks the 35th anniversary of the Ronald McDonald House of Central Indiana.

To stay here, a family must have a child in treatment at a local hospital.

Help from Ronald McDonald House is free to those families to reduce some of their burden.

“When a child is ill, your life is turned upside down,” said Karen Campbell, a former resident of Ronald McDonald House, who later founded the Central Indiana location.

“About four days before he was two, our oldest child was diagnosed with leukemia,” Karen recalled.

At the time, there was no Ronald McDonald House to provide assistance.

Karen and her family lived in Chicago, an hour from the hospital where her son was receiving treatment.

“I slept in a straight chair with my head against the bars of a crib,” she said.

Years later, her son was back in the hospital, and Karen stayed in newly built Ronald McDonald House.

“I saw the difference personally,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through.”

Then Karen went to work. After moving to Central Indiana, she brought the first Ronald McDonald House here in 1982.

In 2016, its 58 rooms allowed over 1,400 families a free place to stay.

One goal is to keep them physically close to their child in the hospital.

But still, the need is great.

“We’re at capacity, we’re having to turn families away,” said Michelle Study-Campbell, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana. “We hate to say no. We’re in the business of saying yes.”

They hope the future means helping more families; to do that, they’re calling on donors and volunteers.

“What’s the next chapter for us, do we try to expand this house, do we build a new house?” said Study-Campbell.

Karen Campbell, who’s now on the board of directors and helping to grow the house, said she hasn’t forgotten the tough times.

Her son is in remission and now has a family of his own, but Karen remembers the hard journey and how much Ronald McDonald House helped her.

“It gives them a sense of normalcy in very abnormal times,” she said. “That’s very difficult to do when you’re under stress.”

The public can help Ronald McDonald House expand, from corporate groups to individual volunteers and donors.

Click here for opportunities to help and information for families in need.